Yesterdays saw a hugely significant announcement in terms of equality for men in the UK, with an extra £15 million pounds to be spent on prostate cancer per year for the next five years. This finally gives something approaching a fair share of funding to prostate cancer after decades of campaigning by men’s equality groups. We thought it would be worth examining the discrimination men face in this area in more detail and look at why the government has been forced to step in.
Reading previous comments online about the issue, there are many people who blame men for not setting up prostate cancer research charities/initiatives, the implication being that women raise all breast cancer research funds themselves. Such attitudes therefore suggest that supposedly neutral organisation such as Cancer Research UK spend monies fairly and aren’t part of the cause of the gender discrimination, or perhaps they’d see the unfairness in the lack of prostate cancer funding and take up at least some of the slack themselves.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, and CRUK is in fact a deeply sexist organisation and given its vast size and dominance that results in huge inequalities for men. Several years back we conducted a gender equality audit of CRUK’s websites and activities, pointing out nine key areas of blatant discrimination against men in its activities and publications which could be fixed at zero cost. The organisation completely rejected every single one our complaints in writing, only to quietly carry out the many of our website/publication recommendations shortly afterwards. However, it failed to open fund-raising events such as Race for Life to male participants and most importantly of all its spending is incredibly discriminatory.
Cancer Research UK Spending
We’ve complied total of CRUK spending over the last seven years on various gender-specific cancers (or largely gender specific in the case of breast cancer), and then divided this by the number of deaths from each specific type. The data is taken from CRUK annual reports.
Totally the research spends over the last seven years gave he following totals:
Breast cancer: £262m
Ovarian cancer : £83m
Cervical cancer : £22m
Prostate cancer : £128m
This gave the following figures for how much is being spent per fatal case of cancer (note: we used the latest cancer mortality figures available, these being the 2015 figures for breast and prostate cancer and 2014 figures for ovarian and cervical cancer) :
Breast cancer: £22.9K per life
Ovarian cancer : £20.1K per life
Cervical cancer : £24.7K per life
Prostate cancer : £10.8K per life
As you can see from the above, Cancer Research UK values male lives as being worth less than half that of female lives, and does so quite consistently on all types of female-specific (or female dominated) cancer and has done so consistently year after year.
There has been considerable media coverage this year pointing out the disparities between breast cancer and prostate cancer spending and the likes of the Daily Mail have rightly suggested it is down to sexism against men. Others, such as James Moore of the Independent and the Guardian’s Ally Fogg prefer to deny reality and seem to think the cancer spending gap is just somehow a chance occurrence and not down to any sort of sex discrimination. Instead, Fogg produces article with headlines victim-blaming men for their own deaths. Our figures above look beyond a comparison of breast and prostate cancers and show the pattern of sexism continues across the board rather than simply being limited to breast cancer. This therefore removes any possible doubt that sexism in research spending on gender-specific cancers is both massive and widespread.
Other tactics used to defend sexism in research funding is to argue that prostate cancer patients are older. However, neither breast nor ovarian cancer patients are particularly young either on average. Furthermore, CRUK’s website itself admits that 27% of breast and 21% of ovarian cancer cases are preventable, for example often linked to obesity, meaning over a fifth the patients in question are not particularly healthy in the first place and of course a healthy lifestyle would have been the best solution to their cancer. In contrast, no such figure on preventability is given for prostate cancer due to its lack of a link to unhealthy lifestyles.
Looking at the issue more broadly, there are other key arguments against discriminating against older men. Men as a group already suffer huge inequalities when it comes to life expectancy, which is about as fundamental inequality one can think of. Dealing with prostate cancer would help to close this gap. I’m sure most readers are aware that the typical feminist attitude when women are disadvantaged in a particular area is to argue for disproportionate efforts and thus extras funds to be put in to reduce an inequality. It’s funny how this all goes out the window when men are the disadvantaged group and men aren’t’ merely denied any extra funding, but they actually get less. Once the genders are reversed, everything is turned on its head and men’s shorter lifespans are used against them to justify making their lives shorter still!
There’s also other issues in CRUK failing to account for cancer trends in its spending. For example we now thankfully have the HPV vaccine given to girls (though incredibly not boys) and this will reduce deaths in this area massively. despite an actual vaccine for this cancer, CRUK continues to treat it cervical cancer as a greater priority than even breast cancer in terms of spend per life and if anything such funds wound be better spent vaccinating males as well as females rather than attempting to treat preventable cases of cancer later.
There is a tiny bit of good news in the CRUK figures, in that spending on prostate cancer has slowly increased from £19m to £22m, but this is still far less than is needed and men can count themselves very lucky that the government has stepped in and compensated for the blatant misandry of CRUK for the next five years at least.In fact, the increase in CRUK spending appears to be at a rate lower than the increase in prostate cancer deaths.
It’s worth considering the muted response to this hugely significant gender equality news we’ve seen today. May’s announcement will see a great many men’s lives saved and shows prostate cancer is finally beginning to be taken seriously. Despite this, if you look on Twitter you’ll fail to find a single feminist celebrating the news and of course the likes of Ally Fogg couldn’t be bothered to mention it either, tweeting instead about swearing by local councillors.
We’re not exactly fans of Theresa May here at HEqual, but the fact is she’s done something superb here, and the test of whether one is truly neutral and actually care about equality ahead of politics is to put such concerns to one side and to celebrate real progress. I suppose in many ways this story is Kryponite for many feminists and Guardian/Independent writers. Not only it real progress in achieving gender equality coming from the Tories, but it’s progress made possible by men’s human rights groups and also campaigning the Daily Mail newspaper, a publication a great many of them would happily censor or ban. Of course it also further debunks their ridiculous idea that men haven’t been discrimianted against for decades when it comes to cancer funding and it also validates points made in documents such as the Justice for Men and Boys Manifesto.
In conclusion, this story is in many ways quite a unique situation, we typically see charities raising funds to tackle inequalities and help groups left behind or marginalised by government polices. In this case we actually have the opposite occurring, with the state forced to put funding into prostate cancer research in order to save men’s lives. Something necessary thanks to the failings and misandry of CRUK. Lets hope they actually increase funding to a fair level themselves too, instead of the taxpayer spending almost as much as they do on prostate cancer research.
Our thanks to the Daily Mail for their brilliant campaigning on this issue.
If you enjoy reading HEqual and the work we do please consider making a donation so we can continue promoting equality and tackling discrimination.